Brush washer | Dehua, China, Qing dynasty (Kangxi period, 1662–1722)

Brush washer

Object TitleBrush washer
OriginDehua, China
DateQing dynasty, Kangxi period, 1662–1722
Dimensionsheight 3.2 x 11.2 cm
CollectionUniversity Museum and Art Gallery, HKU
Accession No.HKU.C.1964.0275

Together with figurines and serving vessels, the kilns at Dehua produced a variety of small porcelain objects for the scholar's desk. Both decorative and functional, they expressed the sophistication and connoisseurship of their owners and were sometimes used in the composition of literary works and paintings. Often inspired by the natural world, their shapes provided philosophical and moral inspiration to scholars through their symbolic content. This example imitates a lotus leaf, which is a traditional symbol of purity because lotuses rise out of the mud to bloom. Leaf-shaped brush washers from Dehua appear to have inspired the production of small cups for sherbet and hot beverages in Europe.